The data center has come a long way. Where once, banks had farms of servers that operated independently, each dedicated to one or two applications and typically 20% or less utilized, virtualization, grid computing and information technology management software have made it possible to harness all that hardware into a shared computing environment in which applications run across multiple machines or several smaller apps run on a single machine. Either way, software dictates where each process should take place, unburdened by concerns about the underlying hardware.

In the next phase of data center technology evolution, manufacturers of network switches, servers, storage units and even database and virtualization software are working more closely together to make their products integrate and work together harmoniously in what is sometimes called the "data center fabric." Products that fit into this fabric mode include Cisco's Unified Computing System, Hewlett-Packard's CloudSystem Matrix and Dell's Virtual Integrated System.

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